What's Hiding in Your Food?
by Elisa Adams

Almost all of us know at least one person who gets headaches from eating in a Chinese restaurant. Fortunately, once MSG was discovered to be the cause, we learned to say “No MSG, please” and to avoid the soup — which is not made-to-order and, in most Chinese restaurants, is already laced with MSG.

Why do some people react so violently to MSG? MSG is monosodiumglutamate, a chemical related to the amino acid called glutamic acid. In vegetables, glutamic acid is bound to a protein, and together they work to keep the digestive tract healthy. In food processing, glutamic acid is split apart from the protein and becomes “free glutamate.” Used as a “flavor enhancer,” it has no flavor itself. Instead, it affects the way the brain senses flavors.

Free glutamate works by stimulating the nervous connection between your taste buds and your brain. It changes your perception of how the food tastes, increasing your ability to taste the yummy flavors — sweet and salty — and suppressing your ability to taste bitter and sour ones, such as those warning you of the presence of rancid fats. 

Unfortunately, it also causes a wide variety of subtle and not-so-subtle problems related to brain function. It's toxic to everyone’s brain, but to those who can't metabolize it effectively, even tiny doses can act like a poison.

Food processors use it to cut production costs by giving you more “good taste” for only pennies. Current labeling laws allow glutamate to be hidden in processed foods under more than 40 different names. Some of these are:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Textured protein
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • “And other spices”
  • Modified food starch

Glutamate can be found in anything protein-fortified, enzyme-modified, or fermented. It can appear where consumers least expect it, such as in the new chickenpox vaccine. Canned tuna packed in water often contains free glutamate as hydrolyzed protein. It is in Sesame Street Pasta Shapes with Mini Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, even though the label says "No MSG." Vendors supply restaurants with soup mixes labeled “No MSG Added,” even when they contain free glutamate. The substance is even in Gerber’s “Graduates” toddler food. The most obvious place where glutamate hides is in food containing “hydrolyzed protein.” It can also be labeled “flavoring,” “natural turkey flavoring,” or “natural flavoring.”

The list of food products containing this neurotoxin is growing. It is in most salad dressings, processed meats, snack foods, soups, and prepared foods on the grocery store shelves. Be careful of “light” foods with reduced fat. Food producers often replace the lost flavor that fat once provided with flavor-enhancing free glutamate. It has also been found in drinks, chewing gum, and candies, frozen entrees, ice cream and frozen yogurt. “Free glutamate” is used in almost all processed or manufactured food, providing “big taste” for little money.

Is this really such a big deal? 

Women who ingest MSG while pregnant increase the risk of the endocrine system of their unborn child being affected, with a measurably smaller pituitary, thyroid, ovaries or testes, resulting in later reproductive dysfunctions. It affects insulin metabolism and diabetes, resulting in both excess insulin secretion and insulin resistance, the causes of adult-onset diabetes. MSG also increases allergy sensitivity, increasing the risk of greater reactions to perfumes, hairspray, and other chemicals, including aspartame (NutraSweet).

MSG is currently under investigation in connection with the dramatic rise in Alzheimer's, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and Parkinson’s, three brain diseases that were rare or nonexistent in the 1800s and earlier. Exposure to processed foods seems to be an across-the-board trigger for most of the increases in diseases that show up in Americans beginning at about age 30, increasing as time passes, as exposure allows more strange chemicals to accumulate in our fatty tissues, including both breast and brain tissue.

The best defense against the diseases of the twentieth century is to stick to eating whole foods, preferably organically grown. Fish, fruits, and vegetables do not contain MSG. The foods you grow in your own garden are safe to eat. You can even freeze greens and berries easily and enjoy them all winter. 

Good health to you!

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